Friends of the Cawthra Bush
Greater Mississauga Area
Pages of Special Interest;
Other Table of Contents;
scanned copy. Done on a non-word processor, called a typewriter, I believe.
Some of the spelling is original, even if it appears wrong. The name Elliott
has two tt's even though it often has only one t. The figures are left
out at his time but as this is a City document a copy is in the Central
library, in the Canadiana Reading Room 615-3524 - code 971.3535.PHI
By Ken Phipps, LACAC student, September 1989
GRACE CAWTHRA-ELLIOTT - The second haft;
That was in 1964. Two years later Mildred Brock died and wrote no more; and the Smouters moved into the gate-house. Al Smouter is a policeman who was then willing to double as a groundskeeper and Grace was only too happy to finally have the law stationed on the premises. When the Smouters moved into the gate-house it was infested with huge woodspiders and ants, so they had to fumigate it. As well, their first cold winter night there was almost their last; years of disuse had clogged the chimney with dead leaves, and the smoke from the fire that warmed them almost killed them in their sleep. It didn't, however, and they managed-to have four children in that gate-house before Grace died in 1974 and, with the fifth child on the way, they moved into the main house. This fifth child would have made the gate-house intolerably cramped. They named this child Jennifer Grace, after the woman who had to a large extent dominated their lives for the previous eight years, and in the end Jennifer was the reason they had to leave the estate. She had asthma, and the dusts and molds and pollen in the air made the estate unendurable--ironic, since in a way the former owner's name was carried on while the girl was there.
Probably when the Smouters first arrived in 1966 they didn't think they would ever name a child after Grace Cawthra-Elliott. The groundskeeper before Al Smouter, Patrick Heffernan, in detailing the work the groundskeeping involved, also told Al why he was leaving. Patrick said that the old woman expected her servants to be on her property and at her service at all times; she didn't pay them to leave her . And Al found that this was true. Grace strenuously objected when Al or his family left the estate, even for a weekend or a night out. As well, Al found that his job entailed much more than groundskeeping.
When he first saw the house, the interior was, of course, four inches deep in dust. Eleven cats were living in the basement on rats and other smaller inhabitants. Grace and Liz each had a feline fetish, but neither of them cared for the cats in a practical way. The cats were filthy, flea-bitten and diseased. Excrement littered the basement. Al cleaned it out and spray-painted everything.
And Liz, once a functioning servant, was at that point a mere fixture. She had been taking angina pills for ten years when Al arrived and five years later she had a heart attack and died. During those first five years she had an increasingly difficult time moving around. She still attempted to satisfy Bee's every whim, but, debilitated as she was, she couldn't. She also insisted on continuing to live in the attic, despite the long narrow flight of stairs she had to climb to get to it. In her last years Al had to carry her, swollen and sickly, up and down those stairs. In those years Al had to look after both women. Liz and Grace always ate separately, carefully maintaining a formal servant-mistress relationship, but Grace would not accept Elizabeth's death until long after it had occurred.
Because of Elizabeth's accelerating rate of decay, Grace had a housekeeper named Rosina Bellas come in twice a week. Possibly this was the same extra help Mildred referred to in her 1964 description of the estate. What this housekeeper actually did is difficult to determine, given Grace's wish that nothing be moved or cleaned.
Grace also acquired a full-time nurse. Her name was Rita Calder, and before Al began to police the scene she apparently had been having Grace pay for food and various articles Grace didn't need or even use. Rita continued her attempts to extract every fringe benefit she could despite Al's watchful eye, and even tried to remain on the estate after Grace had gone and the ostensible reason for Rita's presence had gone with her .
By the end of the first year the Smouters spent on the estate, Bee had had a stroke and was bedridden and totally blind. She stayed this way until she died. Rita's suspicious behaviour, combined with Bee's new vulnerability, spawned a paranoia in Bee which reinforced Bee's already miserly attitude. When Al needed a chainsaw to clear away brush and trim trees, he almost had to buy it himself; she wanted him to use a hatchet. (This may have been, too, because she was suspicious of what he intended doing with the chainsaw; she didn't want him cutting the trees on the property down, as she insisted they were being saved for her majesty's ships.) Al didn't know how much money Bee had, but he had seen numerous cheques for large sums from Consumers' Gas and Honeydew products; she was obviously rich, but she refused to spend a cent on the upkeep of the estate. But this was more than paranoia; she was trying to ignore the decay she couldn't see around her but could feel inside her.
With her blindness and immobility came fear and dependence on the Smouters, particularly Al. Al tried calling her Gracie, and soon she became offended if he called her anything else. He played "Pirates of Penzance" by Gilbert & Sullivan for her on his portable tape-recorder over and over again. Neither did she tire of CFRB 1010 and "Starlight Serenade". Al would put the music on, leave to perform some chore, and return to find Bee clutching the sides of her bed with white knuckles, her eyes clamped shut and her body stiff in rapt concentration.
As the years progressed Al and Bee became as close as a servant and a mistress could become; and after Liz was gone they both felt as if Al had replaced her. At times Grace seemed desperate and afraid and Al had to hold her hand and listen silently while she told stories of the Cawthras he had heard countless times before. At times she was desperate and angry; she stopped talking and eating and would let no one near her .
She tried to get Latham Burns, the son of her brother Victor's daughter "Tootsie", to change his name to Cawthra; she tried to bribe him with the promise of sole inheritance but he refused to comply. Latham was the only relative she was interested in making her heir. When he declined her offer she decided that she wasn't going to die. She would not write a will and would not talk about death or the possibility of death. Instead she tried harder to live in the past, perhaps believing that if it didn't die then she wouldn't either.
Tony Adamson, who Bee used to telephone late at night in order to recount stories of the Cawthra family, says that even if Bee had written a will, it would have been declared unbalanced. Tony would have testified to her insanity in court. Tony believes that his mother was the only one of the Cawthras that wasn't insane .
When Grace Millicent Kennaway Cawthra-Elliott died on October 22 1974 she was 96 years old. She had expressed a wish that she be buried with her husband, but this wish could not be confirmed in-writing as she had left no will. Apparently however there was no room for her among her ancestors, so she was buried in the Dixie Presbyterian cemetery at Cawthra and Dundas with the major-general anyway. On Harry's side of the large tombstone they share are inscribed the words, "Lord thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another."
After her death the vault in the basement of Cawthra-Lotten was opened and was found to be filled with sterling silver. These old family pieces were divided among Bee's relatives, who reportedly sold them. Much of her furniture was auctioned off, but the Smouters made up a small list of items in which they were interested, and Cassels & Brock, Bee's law firm, managed to procure most of these items for them. The Smouters still have these items and would be willing to give them up if they were going to be used as part of a restoration effort and if the City was willing to replace them.
The inheritance was divided three ways: one part went to each of Bee's sister Lena's two sons, Henry Francis Cawthra Burnham and Eric Gilchrist Burnham, both of whom are now dead; and the third part went to the great-nephew she had attempted to bribe, Latham Burns, who can be contacted through Burns-Fry Limited, located at 1 First Canadian Place, Toronto.
Perhaps because of Bee's bold declaration that she would never die, the rumour has spread that her ghost haunts the Cawthra-Elliott estate. Pat Porter, who lived in the house after the Smouters moved out, said she felt Bee's presence strongest in the attic .
But if a ghost does roam the corridors of the Cawthra-Elliott house, chances are it is not simply the ghost of Grace. As Grace spent most of her life and certainly her final days looking at the world through the eyes of her ancestors , she became less an individual and more an embodiment of all of those ancestors. If a ghost does wail through the halls of Cawthra-Lotten in the pale moonlight, it is the ghost of every Cawthra that ever set foot on Canadian soil.
GRACE CAWTHRA-ELLIOTT - List of Figures;
1. Grace Cawthra-Elliott at 87 with cat, 27 Feb. 1965 - p. 55
2. The father of Grace in his prime - p. 56
3. Grace and husband Harry - p. 57
4. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Cawthra, the parents of Grace - p. 57
5. Grace and Harry, middle-aged in the garden of Cawthra-Lotten - p. 57
6. Grace and Harry, older and next to the house at Cawthra-Lotten - p. 57
7. Grace and Harry's tombstone at
Dixie Presbyterian Church Cemetery (Cawthra and
8. Crescent Road house between Wrentham Place and Lamport Avenue; house demolished May-June 1956 - p. 59
9. Yeadon Hall, occupied by Cawthras 1886-1919 - p. 59
10. The drawing room in 1894; Grace would later decorate in much the same way - p.60
11. A 1903 garden party
by which Grace might also have been inspired
12. The place of Grace in the Family Tree - p. 61
(A more complete Cawthra Family Tree - p. 81)
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